Psychopathy is a term used to refer to someone with a personality disorder.

Few psychology terms stir up confusion like “psychopath.” Even though it’s commonly (though incorrectly) used to describe someone who has a mental health condition, “psychopath” is not an official diagnosis. Instead, it’s an informal term often used for a condition called antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Psychopathy is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The true definition of a psychopath in psychiatry refers to someone with ASPD, explains Dr. Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist and co-founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence. ASPD describes a condition marked by patterns of manipulation tactics and violation of others.


Masand says that the phrase “antisocial” can be confusing.

He says that this is not the case in the area. A person who goes against society, rules, and other behaviors is called an “assasin” in the area.

While some clinicians regard psychopathy as a more severe subtype of ASPD, the general consensus is that psychopathy falls under the umbrella of ASPD. In this article, we refer to information about ASPD.

There are more important information about the signs, diagnostic criteria, and treatment options for the disease.

Illustration by Sophia Smith

Since the term “psychopath” is not an official diagnosis, experts refer to the signs described under ASPD. According to Masand, some of the more common signs of ASPD can include:

  • behavior that is not in line with social standards
  • It can be violating the rights of others.
  • “It’s difficult to distinguish between right and wrong.”
  • Difficult with showing remorse or empathy.
  • Lying is a tendency to lie often.
  • manipulating and hurting others.
  • There are problems with the law.
  • disregard for safety and responsibility
  • On a regular basis, expressing anger and arrogance.

There are other possible signs of ASPD, such as a tendency to engage in behavior that may lead to harmful consequences.

Masand says someone may be doing this.

  • There are no deep emotional connections.
  • Have a good nature about them.
  • Be aggressive.
  • Sometimes get very angry.

Additionally, people with ASPD may not react as if they have hurt someone, and they may be impulsive or abusive and may lack remorse. In the case of ASPD, abusive doesn’t necessarily mean violent.

Masand says there are certain characteristics that are more prevalent in people with the disease.

  • ASPD is more common in men than women.
  • Technically, to receive an ASPD diagnosis, you have to be at least 18 years old. But some children will show signs of conduct disorder, which may be an early indicator of ASPD.
  • ASPD is a chronic (long-term) condition that seems to improve with age, and remittance (no longer showing signs of antisocial behavior) is possible.
  • Mortality rates are higher in people with ASPD because of their behavior patterns.

Since psychopathy is not an official mental health condition, the condition experts diagnose is ASPD. This is one of four cluster B personality disorders outlined by the DSM-5, and the other three are:

It is important to mention that the challenges of treating and diagnosing ASPD are unique.

“The person who needs help often doesn’t believe there is a problem with their behavior, which can make it difficult to treat. They rarely seek treatment.”

That said, according to the established guidelines used to diagnose ASPD, the behavior generally begins by age 15 or in the teenage years. However, Masand says a true ASPD diagnosis is not made until the age of 18.

The worst of the behavior occurs in the late teen years.

Diagnostic criteria

A mental health professional will conduct a full mental health evaluation to get a proper diagnosis. The mental health professional will evaluate a person during this process.

  • thoughts
  • There are feelings.
  • behavior patterns
  • relationships

The mental health professional will identify symptoms and compare them with the ASPD criteria in the DSM-5.

In order to receive a diagnosis of ASPD, a person must show a pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. This is indicated by three or more of the following criteria, according to the DSM-5:

  • Failing to conform to social standards concerning lawful behaviors can lead to arrest.
  • Lying, using aliases, or conning others for pleasure or personal profit is a form of deceptiveness.
  • Failure to plan or impulsivity are two different things.
  • Irritated and aggressive, often with physical fights or assaults.
  • reckless disregard for the safety of others
  • Failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor monetary obligations are examples of consistent irresponsibility.
  • Being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another person is a lack of remorse.

The mental health professional will also look at a person’s medical history. This full evaluation is a critical step since people with ASPD often have other mental health and substance use disorders.


Because a true ASPD diagnosis is typically delayed until the age of 18, adolescents and teens who display similar symptoms are often evaluated for conduct disorder (CD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

CD is more severe than ODD.

When determining if a child has ODD, mental health professionals will look at how they act around people they know. Typically, someone with ODD is more likely to act oppositional or defiant around family members, teachers, or a healthcare professional.

If an adolescent or teen shows an ongoing pattern of aggression toward others and regularly makes choices in opposition to the rules and social norms at home, at school, or with peers, a clinician may decide to evaluate for CD.

To receive a diagnosis of ASPD before the age of 18, a teen must also have a previous diagnosis of CD by age 15.

“Psychopath” and “sociopath” are often used interchangeably to informally describe someone with ASPD. Since sociopath is also not an official diagnosis, it typically joins psychopath under the umbrella diagnosis of ASPD. There is no clinical difference between the two terms.

Psychopathy and sociopathy are two ways to describe the syndrome. The behaviors that are seen in both are often considered to be under the criteria of the ASPD.

While the exact cause of ASPD is not known, researchers believe that its development may involve a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

More research needs to be done to understand the genetic aspects of ASPD. Previous research estimates that between 38 and 69 percent of cases may be hereditary.

Additionally, some of the environmental triggers of ASPD may include childhood neglect and other adverse experiences, such as childhood abuse.

ASPD may also be seen in people who previously received a diagnosis of CD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Like the diagnostic process, treating someone with traits that fall under the ASPD diagnosis can be difficult. Typically, a doctor may recommend a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication.

While no evidence supports that any medication or form of psychotherapy can cure ASPD, these methods may still help manage some of the symptoms, like impulsivity and aggression, and improve quality of life.

According to a 2015 review, early interventions in adolescents and teens who received a diagnosis of CD may also help prevent ASPD.

The researchers in the 2015 review found that the condition may improve for some people with the condition as they get older, with the median age of improvement being 35. They found that people with stronger social ties and support were more likely to have their disease go away.

It is possible that therapy can help understand how the disorder can impact your life and relationships. Strategies that can help decrease the severity of symptoms will be developed by a mental health professional.

If medication is part of the treatment plan, a doctor might prescribe medications that treat related mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or symptoms of aggression.

Options may include:

The wordpsychopath is used to describe someone with the disease.

ASPD is notthe same as being “antisocial.” It primarily involves behavior that is not in line with social standards, as well as a general lack of disregard for others.

A mental health professional can identify this condition and offer treatment that can help.

This article is in Spanish.